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Trouble in the Forest

Trouble in the Forest: California’s Redwood Timber Wars

Richard Widick
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Trouble in the Forest
    Book Description:

    Wars over natural resources have been fiercely fought in the Humboldt Bay redwood region of Northern California, a situation made devastatingly urgent in recent decades. In Trouble in the Forest, Richard Widick narrates the long and bloody history of this hostility and demonstrates how it exemplifies the key contemporary challenge facing the modern societies—the collision of capitalism, ecology, and social justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7076-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Map of Humboldt County, California
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Entry Point: Mapping the Humboldt Bay Region
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  6. Introduction. The Case of Humboldt: Violence, Archive, and Memory in the Redwood Timber Wars
    (pp. 1-42)

    On the morning of September 17, 1998, in the coastal forest of Humboldt County, a logger working for the Maxxam corporation’s Pacific Lumber Company felled a redwood tree that crashed through the skull of David “Gypsy” Chain. The event occurred as Chain and several allies in the North Coast Earth First! movement confronted the loggers directly, interrupting their work and challenging them to stop an illegal harvest of timber in the nesting grounds of an endangered seabird called the marbled murrelet. In a rare moment of apparent reconciliation between history-making individuals usually compelled by social position into hostile confrontation, the...

  7. 1. Power and Resistance in Redwood Country: Maxxam versus the Forest Defense
    (pp. 43-56)

    September 1998. I entered the field and engaged the redwood timber wars ethnographically at a complex moment. The campaign to save Headwaters forest had pushed the Maxxam corporation, the state of California, and the federal government into a tentative agreement to preserve the largest extant but still unprotected ancient redwood grove. Law enforcement and logger violence against forest defenders had ignited a firestorm of discourse in the mainstream and oppositional press. Nonviolent, direct-action civil disobedience against Maxxam was producing a continuous media spectacle of resistance. Alliances between local forest defense groups were strengthening, and activists were making connections between the...

  8. 2. Convoking the Opposition: One Year and Counting in the Branches of Luna
    (pp. 57-92)

    California Highway 101 runs south out of Arcata along the eastern shore of Humboldt Bay, skirting the Green Diamond Company’s (in 1998, the Simpson Timber Company) enormous redwood lumber mill sitting at the water’s edge. The road then cuts across Eureka, the largest city in Humboldt, heading toward Rio Dell, Scotia, and Stafford, where North Coast Earth First! (NCEF) convened the rally celebrating the one-year mark of Julia “Butterfly” Hill’s ongoing tree-sit in the canopy of Luna, an old-growth redwood high on a Maxxam ridge just south of Scotia.¹ On the outskirts of Eureka, I came across a hitchhiker holding...

  9. 3. Everybody Needs a Home: Speaking Up for Workers, Owners, and the Company Town of Scotia
    (pp. 93-128)

    After the forest defense rally celebrating Julia Butterfly Hill’s completion of her first year in the canopy tree-sit platform, I surveyed the industrial landscape of Humboldt, traveling the roadways and photographing the built environment, talking to people, reading the papers, gathering literature from every position in the redwood timber wars, and planning for long-term participant observation, interviews, and field research. Nine months later I returned and spent two years living on the scene, immersing myself in the deep social context of redwood timber culture, the forest defense movement, and the archives of Humboldt’s perpetual public-sphere conflict, which includes the landscape...

  10. 4. Indian Trouble: The Colonizing Culture of Capitalism
    (pp. 129-174)

    In the early darkness of Sunday morning, February 26, 1860, a group of men whom history has left unnamed quietly slid their boats beneath a strong north wind and landed on the shores of Indian Island—a windswept, marshy patch of land on which Humboldt Bay’s ancient indigenous peoples held their yearly world renewal ceremonies. The Wiyot Indians hosted the ritual throughout the long decade of gold rush, timber boom, and so-called Indian trouble that came to Humboldt in 1850, when the Laura Virginia land company rediscovered the narrow passage into the bay on April 14 of that year—five...

  11. 5. Labor Trouble: Capitalism, Work, and Resistance in the Redwoods
    (pp. 175-224)

    From all over Humboldt the strikers came, and by 6:30 a.m. on June 21 some two hundred had massed at the gate of the Holmes-Eureka redwood mill. It was day forty-three in the Great Lumber Strike of 1935, and mills were shut down from Puget Sound to Humboldt Bay. Across the road and up on the bluff, spectators gathered at Fort Humboldt looked down on the growing crowd. Strikers blockaded the entrance with scavenged boards. They argued with special officers hired to protect the mill. Some went against the union’s directive and harangued nonstriking lumbermen with rocks as they arrived...

  12. 6. Trouble in the Forest: Earth First!, Redwood Summer, and the Alliance to Save Headwaters
    (pp. 225-276)

    At 11:54 a.m. on Thursday, May 24, 1990, Earth First! forest defenders Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were headed up Park Boulevard in Oakland. Later that day they were scheduled to speak and play music down the coast in Santa Cruz at an organizing and recruitment rally for what they hoped would be the largest environmental action in history: Redwood Summer, they called it, Mississippi Summer in the ancient forest, an entire season of nonviolent civil disobedience designed to slow the elimination of old-growth redwoods. Mass protests and directaction logging blockades would grab the attention of local loggers and world...

  13. Conclusion: Living in the Archive of the Redwood Imaginary
    (pp. 277-298)

    When we shiver in witness of untimely death, or flush in the warm celebration of extraordinary life, or shudder at the gravity of syndicated forces towering over us and acting on the world as if free of constraint, the thick veil of routine that obscures so much of the social world grows thinner for a moment or is cast aside completely. The routines of life, for an instant no longer inured to the urgency of historical forces, quicken to their pace. Exemplary figures identify us and bind us to the unfolding story. We find ourselves attached to the plot. David...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 299-334)
  15. Index
    (pp. 335-354)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-355)